Jean Hussey has been a volunteer mentor for the SCORE Coachella Valley chapter for more than 10 years, but recently she had a wake-up moment when she was asked to give a talk on what it means to be a mentor.
In the early ’60s, Jean — a North Carolina native — challenged herself by getting on a bus to New York City to find a good-paying job. She was a 21-year-old woman, 5 feet tall, 100 pounds soaking wet, with $100 and a degree from Duke University in her pocket, but unable to find a business opportunity for a woman in North Carolina.
The final words from her mother as she left were “you’ll be back in six months.”
Determined to “make it,” she landed a job at Abraham & Strauss (now Macy’s) for $75 a week, first on the training squad and then in the Infant’s Department. Some 45 years later she retired from Hot Sox (the originator of both women and men’s fashion socks) after helping to turn this small company’s struggling sock business into a designer powerhouse with revenue growth from $2.5 million to $78 million.
So, what happened? As Jean prepared for her talk she looked back, remembering the two mentors at Abraham and Strauss who pushed her, held her hand, and molded her talents as a troubleshooter. To her there is no question that Marie (a buyer), and Zach (a divisional merchandise manager) are the people who most contributed to her growth and successful career. Upon her retirement she was pleased to discover that many of her fellow Hot Sox employees were as grateful for the mentoring she gave them while they grew in the organization.
When Jean moved to the Coachella Valley after retirement, she searched for a place to use her business talents and found SCORE, whose volunteers provide free and confidential small business advice and education. Over the last 10 years she has mentored hundreds of small business clients, primarily through the Internet.
Her clients, who are located all over the country, are searching for practical help as they start new businesses or need encouragement as they address the challenges that all struggling entrepreneurs face.
For the last two years, Jean has mentored Linda Sibio — a Desert Hot Springs resident and successful artist, who displays her unique artistic style on T-shirts, dresses, and hand-painted scarves. She recently received an order for 192 tees, the largest to date, and conducted a successful workshop on performance and design. Her wares were also just exposed through the Pop-Up shop of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
Jean’s role is as a cheerleader and to provide solutions when Linda encounters a roadblock. Linda has a broad range of talents so it has been a pleasure for Jean to help in her growth and success.
Being a volunteer in any capacity is a gift of one’s self, as time is the most precious of commodities. Jean is giving back in many ways, through SCORE and through her many other volunteer passions, while all the time Marie and Zach sit on her shoulder saying, “You go girl.”
Published in Desert Sun 6/4/2018 by Sally Tilden